This month I’ve already done a week of reviews of a category I don’t know very much about: bourbon. I’m now pleased to do a week of reviews of a category I know even less about: mezcal. I’ll be reviewing two mezcals from Del Maguey, the brand that has in recent years raised the profile of mezcal among whisky drinkers, and another from Quiquiriqui, a brand I had not heard of until I acquired a sample of it. First up, Del Maguey’s Tobala. It is named for the variety of agave from which it is is distilled. The tobala agave is much smaller variety than most others used to make mezcal, grows at high elevations, takes a long time to reach maturity, and apparently its yields too are quite low. All of this means mezcals made from tobala are typically more expensive. This Del Maguey iteration—which is a single village/town expression from Santa Maria Albarradas—goes for over $100, if you can find it. I’ve never had a tobala mezcal before, and so will not be able to tell you if this is a representative example of the varietal, but I’m curious to try it. Continue reading
This week of Campbeltown hand-fills from August of this year began with a Hazelburn on Monday and continued with a Springbank on Wednesday. Let’s end with a Longrow. (A reminder: I did not fill these myself—I acquired these samples via a bottle split with the person who did.) Even though Hazelburn is supposed to be Springbank’s unpeated malt, I found a fair bit of smoke in there (and not for the first time). Well, Longrow is supposed to be Springbank’s heavily peated malt—will this one turn out to an anomaly as well? I do expect I will like it a lot either way as, usually, Longrow is my favourite variant of Springbank—and I really liked the last Longrow I reviewed, which also came directly from Campbeltown, having been issued by Cadenhead (who are owned by the same company that owns Springbank). This particular iteration of the hand-fill is pretty dark—quite a bit darker than the other two—which I would guess means sherry casks were involved at some point in this vatting. What will it all add up to? Let’s see. Continue reading
My week of reviews of Campbeltown hand-fills continues. As with Monday’s Hazelburn, this Springbank was filled in August of this year (not by me). These hand-fills don’t have age or vintage statements and nor are the cask types disclosed. My understanding, as I said on Monday, is that this is because at Springbank these are not, as at most other distilleries, single casks that are replaced when depleted, but continuous vattings that get topped up once they get low. If you can confirm or deny that this is true, please write in below. Monday’s Hazelburn was somewhat uncharacteristic, being quite peaty (Hazelburn is supposed to be Springbank’s unpeated variant). Where will this Springbank fall on the spectrum? Let’s see.
Springbank Hand-Filled, August 2022 (57%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Nutty sweetness (almonds) with olive oil, mild brine and a bit of coriander seed. A bit of vanilla in the sweetness as it sits and also some acid below it (preserved lemon, a bit of tart-sweet apple). The preserved lemon expands as it sits and the almond and olive oil turn to almond oil. A few drops of water and the almond oil expands with some citronella coming up from below it. Continue reading
Okay, after a week of bourbon reviews let’s do a week of Campbeltown reviews. This is going to be a very low-utility series as all the reviews are going to be of bottles that were hand-filled at Springbank (presumably) in August. I did not fill them myself; I went in on a bottle split with the person who did. My understanding is that these hand-fills are not single casks but more like infinity vattings that get topped up when they get too low. And given the likely foot traffic at Springbank in the summer it’s quite likely that the composition turns over every day or two. I’ll start with the Hazelburn—the triple-distilled, unpeated variant of Springbank—then go on to the Springbank hand-fill and finally end the week with the Longrow, which is nominally more heavily peated than Springbank. I say “nominally” because in practice it’s not always possible to tell the peat levels of Springbank and Longrow apart; and, in fact, I’ve even had a Hazelburn that had more than a bit of peat in it. Let’s see where this one falls. Continue reading
Bourbon week continues. On Monday I had a review of the 2021 release of the George Dickel Bottled in Bond; today I have for you a review of an Elijah Craig Small Batch that was bottled for Spec’s in Houston a couple of years ago. I’ve only reviewed two Elijah Craigs before this: the old 12 yo Small Batch (which used to be very reasonably priced and is now gone bye-bye); and the Elijah Craig 18 (which has never been reasonably priced and is still around). You will not be shocked to hear that the current Elijah Craig Small Batch has no age statement. Well, I suppose in this time of bourbon market insanity we should consider it a minor miracle that the NAS version doesn’t cost twice as much as the old 12 yo did; in fact, it seems to cost about the same (at least in Minnesota where it is available for $25). Now as to whether this store pick is very different from the regulation release, I have no idea. If I like this maybe I’ll pick up a regular Small Batch and see what that’s like. Continue reading
Okay, for our first full themed week in November, let’s do a trio of bourbon reviews. First up, the 2021 release of the George Dickel Bottled in Bond. Since I am such an informed bourbon drinker, I was not aware that George Dickel has a Bottled in Bond release. This has apparently been an annual release since 2019, or three years after my previous George Dickel review–of the 17 yo, which no longer seems to be part of their range. In fact, the No. 12 seems to be history as well—as you may recall this was not actually a 12 yo whiskey. The Bottled in Bond releases do have age statements, however. This 2021 release was distilled in 2008 and is 13 years old. This was their second release in this series that was distilled in 2008. The 2020 release (I think) was an 11 yo also distilled in 2008. Suffice to say, I have not had that or any other of their Bottled in Bond releases. This particular bottle was purchased by a friend of mine from a store whose manager fronted it as a very rare selection—which I don’t think it quite is (though with the bourbon world having gone insane, who knows?). He brought it over one evening a month ago and we put a decent dent in it. I also stole a sample for review at leisure. Here now are my notes from it. Continue reading
This week’s theme has been official distillery releases of sherry-bothered whiskies. Monday’s review (of the 2021 release of the Springbank 18) and Wednesday’s review (of the 2021 release of the Glenallachie 12) were both of whiskies that had sherry cask-matured whisky in them but were not full-on sherry maturations. They were also not single casks. The last whisky of the week is a single cask and it is single PX cask. Or so the label says. Of course, this is a Glendronach single cask from the Billy Walker era. I took a side swipe at this in the intro to the Glenallachie 12 on Wednesday, but in case you don’t know, and didn’t follow the link then, the Glendronach “single casks” of that era were neither always single casks—as most people understand the term—nor always matured only in the cask type marked on the label. As to whether that’s true of this PX puncheon that was bottled for the Whisky Exchange in 2013, I’m not sure. My early pours from the bottle didn’t blow me away but they also didn’t come across as indicating an attempt to dress up tired whisky with a PX cask finish. The bottle has now been open for a week or so. Let’s see what some air in it has done for the whisky. Continue reading
Glenallachie, or The GlenAllachie, as they style themselves, is another of the Scottish distilleries I have very little experience of. I’ve only reviewed one other—this 22 yo bottled by/for Whiskybase. It is a young distillery—only built in 1967—and is also one of the few independent distilleries left in Scotland. Mothballed in 1985, it was purchased in 1989 by Campbell Distillers, who in turn later became part of Pernod Ricard’s holding. In 2017 it was purchased by a group including Billy Walker, ex of Glendronach. The following year the distillery released a new core range, featuring 10, 12, 18 and 25 yo whiskies. They’ve since added 8, 15, 21 and 30 yo expressions to that lineup. Good on them for not going the NAS route as so many have done. They’ve not as yet released any single cask whiskies—as far as I know—which means we might have to wait a while to find out if in the move from Glendronach to Glenallachie, Billy Walker’s understanding of what the term “single cask” means has undergone any development. At any rate, I am interested to see what this 12 yo is like. My understanding is it is put together as a vatting of ex-oloroso, PX and virgin oak-matured spirit. An unusual combo, to be sure. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading
Having spent a week in October reviewing whiskies from Kilkerran/Glengyle, let’s close the month out with a whisky from the big boy on the Campbeltown block: Springbank. But as a month finishes, a week begins, and so let’s make this the first whisky of the week with sherry involvement. Now, the Springbank 18’s cask composition has varied a fair bit over the last decade or so. In most years there’s been a decent amount of sherry casks in the mix. In 2016 it was 80% sherry, 20% bourbon; in 2017 the ratio shifted to 60-40; in 2020 it was 55-45 and in 2021, 50-50 sherry and bourbon. Contrariwise, in 2015 and 2018 it was all ex-bourbon and in 2019 it was apparently 88% bourbon and 12% port. Meanwhile it appears the 2022 release (not yet in the US, I don’t think) is 65% bourbon and 35% sherry. (All this info, by the way, is pulled from the Whiskybase listings for Springbank 18.) Well, the most recent Springbank 18 I’ve reviewed was from the sherry-heavy 2016 release. I’ve not kept up with it since as in the intervening period—the whisky world having gone crazy—Springbank’s whiskies have become heavily allocated in the US. It was a major achievement finding a few bottles of the 2021 Springbank 10 this spring and when I saw that one of the stores I got those from had the 18 yo as well, I couldn’t resist it despite the high price tag. My first impressions were not super positive but the bottle’s come on nicely since then. Here now are my notes. Continue reading
This week of sherry cask reviews began with a 6 yo old Amrut on Monday and continued with an 11 yo Aberlour on Wednesday. Let’s end now with a 15 yo Craigellachie. This was bottled by Old Particular for K&L in California—I think I might only have one or maybe two samples left to still review from the big split I went in on of their 2021/22 casks. Anyway, sherry cask Craigellachie can be a very good thing indeed—the savoury character of the distillate holds up well to and, indeed, complements sherry cask maturation. So I thought, for example, of the last single sherry cask of Craigellachie I reviewed (an official distillery release for the US market). That said, I was not quite as impressed by the one before that: a 14 yo bottled by, Hepburn’s Choice—like Old Particular, another Laing label—for, yes, K&L. Then, again, I very much liked the one I reviewed before that one: a 16 yo also bottled by Old Particular for K&L. Let’s hope this one is in that vein. Continue reading
After a week of reviews of whiskies from one distillery (Kilkerran: here, here and here) and before that a week of rums (here, here and here), let’s do a week of reviews of whiskies from three different distilleries. The connecting thread this week will be sherry cask maturation and we’ll take them in order of increasing age. First up, a 6 yo Amrut that was bottled for K&L in California. I liked the last Amrut I tried that was bottled for an American store very much indeed. That seven years old was triple-distilled and matured in bourbon casks (bottled for Spec’s in Texas) and so this is not likely to have very much in common with it. I have had other sherry cask Amruts before, though, that I have liked very much—not least the regular release Intermediate Sherry (is it still a regular release?)—and so I am hopeful that this will be good too. Truth be told, I’m not sure I’ve ever had an Amrut that wasn’t at least quite good (and I’m too lazy to look up my scores). Okay, let’s get to it. Continue reading
Kilkerran week got off to a good start on Monday with Batch 6 in their 8 yo Cask Strength series, which was matured in sherry casks. It then hit a bit of a bump in the road on Wednesday with Batch 7 in that series, which was matured in port casks. Here now to close out the week is Batch 4 of a different Kilkerran series, the Heavily Peated. I’ve previously reviewed Batch 1 from this series, and I was not terribly impressed by it. You might think that would bode ill for this review but I think this one is a bit older. I believe the series—also referred to as Peat in Progress—features progressively older iterations of the heavily peated distillate. It doesn’t appear to be the case though that every release is a year older than the previous. As per Whiskybase, Batch 1 and Batch 2 both came out in 2019, Batch 3 in 2020 and both Batch 4 and Batch 5 in 2021; and Batch 6—the latest—came out this year. So this is probably only a little bit older than Batch 1. But enough to make a difference? Let’s see. Continue reading
Following a week of Kilchoman and a week of Jamaican rum, let’s do a week of Kilkerran. As you may know, Kilkerran is not the name of a distillery but the brand of whisky produced at the Glengyle distillery in Campbeltown. (See here for why the whisky produced there is sold under the name Kilkerran and not Glengyle.) Glengyle is owned by the same people who own Springbank and made in much the same way. Or at least so I assume as I find a lot in common between the whiskies produced at Springbank and the Kilkerrans I’ve tried—I suppose you could put this down to terroir if you believe in it in the context of whisky. The one I am tasting today is the sixth batch in their Kilkerran 8 CS series. I’ve previously reviewed Batch 1 (ex-bourbon), Batch 4 (re-charred oloroso sherry) and Batch 5 (first-fill oloroso sherry). Batch 6 is also from sherry casks but there doesn’t seem to be any further detail on cask type specified. It was released earlier this year which makes this quite a timely review by my standards. Let’s get into it. Continue reading
Jamaican rum week began on Monday with a 15 yo Long Pond and continued on Wednesday with a 16 yo Worthy Park. Here now to close out the week is a Hampden, albeit one that does not bear an age statement. This is Hampden’s third annual release in their “Great House” series. I’ve previously reviewed the 2020 release, which I liked a lot. At the time of that review I’d made a mental note to try to find the 2021 release when it came out, but it’s not a mental note I remembered to read often. Then again, it probably wouldn’t have mattered. Very few interesting rums come to Minnesota and with inter-state shipping of spirits now as difficult as international shipping I probably wouldn’t have been able to buy a bottle even if I’d looked for one. (This is where someone will tell me it was available at my local Total Wine.) Anyway, I did get to it via a bottle split and that’s better than nothing. If I like it will I actually remember to look for the 2022 release? I don’t think it’s out yet. Continue reading
Jamaican rum week continues. On Monday I reviewed a 15 yo Long Pond that I liked a lot and which I said reminded me of rum from Worthy Park. And today I have a 16 yo Worthy Park. Well, I don’t think it was bottled with that name on the label but that is the distillery in question. This was a single cask bottled by the Thompson brothers of Dornoch Castle fame for K&L in California. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a Worthy Park I didn’t like—I don’t mean to give the impression that I’ve tried so very many of them. Let’s hope this won’t be the first.
Worthy Park 16, 2005, Rum (54%; Thompson Bros.; from a sample split)
Nose: Oh yes, quite a bit more funk in this one with motor oil, diesel and just a whiff of ripe garbage heap. Quite a bit of aniseed on the second sniff. As it sits there’s more fruit—dried tangerine peel—along with cinnamon and clove and quite a bit of caramel. With a lot of time and air the caramel lightens a bit and picks up some toffee and some plum sauce. A few drops of water and it seems to get sort of…flat: the funk and the fruit recede and are replaced by brown sugar. Continue reading
Now, Long Pong is not generally a misnomer for a Jamaican rum but that’s a typo on the sample label. The name of the distillery is Long Pond. It was once one of hundreds of Jamaican rum distilleries, its history—like those of all distilleries in the Caribbean—going back uneasily a few hundred years through the horrors of sugar plantation slavery and the triangular trade. If there’s a history of Caribbean rum that looks closely at its fundamental connections with the history of colonialism and slavery and their post/neo-colonial reverberations, I haven’t come across it. My sense is that the rum world is as quiet about this complicated history as the American bourbon industry is, but I may be wrong about that: if a book about this exists, I would be very interested to read it (please write in below). Anyway, almost all of those Jamaican distilleries are now gone. Long Pond itself—one of the last survivors—was closed in 2012 before being reopened in 2017. I gather it may now be producing again. The rum I am reviewing today, however, was distilled before that closure, in 2005. This cask was bottled in 2021 by the California-based importer ImpEx. It’s my first Long Pond and I am curious to see where it will fall on the funk spectrum between Hampden and Worthy Park, the two Jamaican distilleries I do have some experience of. Let’s get to it. Continue reading
Alright, let’s close out PX cask Kilchoman week with another cask bottled for the American market. As a reminder, all three of this week’s reviews have been Kilchomans distilled in 2015 from the distillery’s own barley, peated to 20 ppm, and then matured in PX sherry hogsheads—one for 5 years and two for six years. Cask 772—which I reviewed on Monday—was released in Germany; Cask 773—which I reviewed on Wednesday—was split between Canadian and American parties. Today’s cask was bottled for a store and a whisky club in California. It’s bottled at a slightly less eye-watering strength: 58% to the other two’s 60.2%. Despite their identical strength, though, casks 772 and 773 were from identical. Indeed, I did not care for 772 very much: too much oak; 773, on the other hand, was a more balanced affair, even if it couldn’t finally transcend its youth. I am curious to see what Cask 329 will be like. Let’s get to it. Continue reading
Kilchoman week did not get off to the best start on Monday. (I’m reviewing three young, PX cask Kilchomans this week.) I found a bit too much oak in Cask 772, which was bottled for the German market. Today I have a review of Cask 773, which was also distilled from 100% Islay barley peated to 20 ppm, and bottled at 60.2% (what are the odds?). But this was bottled for a consortium of North Americans—some Canadian, some American (you can get the details on Kilchomania). Will I like this one more? I certainly hope so. By the way, ignore what it says on the label: this one is 6 years old.
Kilchoman 6, 2015 (60.2%; PX Cask 773; from a bottle split)
Nose: Leads with phenolic smoke with salt coming up from below. Some barbecue sauce on the second sniff along with some chilli pepper. Not much sign of the oak here or of red fruit. As it sits there’s a fair bit of char and cracked black pepper and some dried orange peel. More savoury as it goes with beef drippings and soy sauce. A few drops of water and the phenols recede a fair bit; softer now with toffee and milky cocoa. Continue reading